Will anyone really dispute the lead assertion of my SN column today that the Cubs are basically finished in this postseason? You lose two straight at home to open a best-of-5 series and you practically deserve to get ousted.
I'm wondering where this particular one will rank among Cubs fans as far as hurt goes. Given the NL-best record and the home-field advantage? Probably way way up there. (Not: "You might as well have not even made the playoffs" level, like the Phillies last year, but close.)
(UPDATE: A friend who is a Cubs fan emailed me to disagree: "The Cubs are just like Philly last year. What was the point of this season? Ugh.")
Meanwhile: Evan Longoria! Again: If you don't have a horse in the race, how can you NOT be rooting for the Rays? Especially in these troubled economic times, how can you not love a team with the 2nd-lowest payroll in baseball?
Good for the Phillies! And good for their fans. And I'll leave it there. But they took down my guy CC -- and you know what kind of credit I'll give them for THAT.
CFB: South Florida joins the ranks of the beaten. (Really: How does Dave Wannstedt DO this? First West Virginia last December, now USF in Tampa?) Utah narrowly survives, but at this point, it looks like Oregon State is a damn good team (and Penn State looks even better). All eyes on the Big 12 this weekend, when conference play starts and at least one upset has to happen, right?
NBA: Tim Donaghy acted alone. Or so the NBA insists through the legitimizing effect of a "report." In the SN column, I make what feels like an obvious suggestion: Make any/all gambling -- illegal or legal -- off-limits to refs, players and team execs. Period. The NBA may be focusing on illegal gambling, but it's the legal stuff that leads to the illegal stuff.
NHL: If you see today's column's "Last Word," you'll see my homage to NHL. I will continue to argue that it is a "niche" sport, but it is an amazingly successful one -- attendance is up; revenue is up.
Casual interest may not be up (except for the Outdoor Game at Wrigley!), but that's not what a niche sport needs. A niche sport needs a total devotion to its core fans, and the NHL seems to have embraced that.
I'll continue to push my advice for any niche sport, and that includes the NBA: Don't ask too much of the casual fans. Give them a couple of concrete, finite things to get excited about your sport -- a novelty game, a YouTube clip. Over time, it will work.
Complete SN column here.